World Map Wall Art


Pastor for the First Baptist Church in Longwood is a member at my gym and asked me if I'd make a world map for their freshly renovated chapel. It ws a challenging project, so of course, I said "Yes!"... Little did I know...

The first idea was to make the continents separate and hang them up, but instead, we settled on the negative space idea. 

First I cut a full 4x8 sheet of plywood with a circular saw into six 8-inch strips and cut another 8-inch strip off another piece - so that the map would fit better. I moved the strips around to make the gaps a little larger and not as perfect. Screwed a couple of boards on the back to hold the entire thing together (there's a pic a bit later). Right about there I realized that it was going to be a bigger project than anticipated - it wasn't so much the weight (probably 40-50 lbs), but the sheer size which was almost 5 feet by 8 feet.

Fired up the projector, positioned it just so and started tracing.

All traced and ready to drill out the initial holes, so that the work can begin.

Started cutting out the first continents without cutting into the support boards.

Right about here I realized what I'm truly in for: the boards moved around quite a bit and bowed up and down. A lot of extra support would be needed than I initially anticipated. Flipping the map back and forth was a bit tedious and I had to be very careful not to snap anything off. 

Had to use two tables to support the large frame. Getting into the center pieces was tricky, luckily at 6'3" it wasn't too unreasonable.

Cut a little, flip over, check where the supports are already and where to add them, flip over & cut a little more...

It was super tedious and time-consuming, but quite fun. Had to be really careful not to break any little pieces especially the Baltic Sea area. Coming up to the Mediterranian I was getting really worried it'd break so I left a connection with the Arab Peninsula.

It was looking incredible already, however.

This picture probably sums up the level of detail this project required. A lot of little pieces had to be put on the back to hold everything together. I cut out an exact copy of part of the Mediterranian sea to reinforce the Gibraltar Strait to reinforce the little neck.

Ran out of little 3/4 inch screws that hold I used to hold all the boards and little pieces together - Soc was excited to go shopping with me! I like to cart him around sometimes - the smiles on everyone faces when folks see him are awesome. 

Coming to a close. Sanding off the top coat that was already on the sheet of plywood. Normally it's not needed, but this was some fancy plywood that my friend hooked me up with.

Since this was plywood - I used a few types of stains that I had at home already to make a sample board and see how it'd look. The two on the right are gel stains (Mahogany is the one I used on my garage doors). 

Here's the finished map without the stain and with two extra boards added for support (especially during transport) until the map was ready to be hung.

The gel stain is neat - it adds a very durable finish and depending on the angle and light it changes color from almost black to reddish-orange in full sun after two coats. It's quite glossy as well. The front side wasn't hard to do, but all the little nooks and crannies everywhere is a different story - took forever!

This is after After the first coat of mahogany gel stain.

Drying outside. Looks almost black from this angle. Support boards are still in place. We transported it on a trailer like this since it was too large for a pickup or my Suburban.

And here it is up in the chapel. It was hung using a french cleat technique after the support boards were removed. 

A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. This felt like a journey of a thousand cuts (and thousands of support pieces)...

Once I started this project I wasn't sure if I could quite do it and do it right. I had to sleep on it a few times figuring out the next step. The end result is fantastic and everyone loved the map.

I'm glad I made it larger, even though it made my project much harder by creating multiple separate boards - it would've been too small in the space otherwise.

The shadows are fantastic as well from about 1-inch space between the map and the wall.

Overall I don't know how many hours this took - quite a few, probably 20-30 total, not counting the thinking time. It wasn't expensive material wise however - may be $50 total (plywood, a bit of stain, a cheap brush and a bazillion little screws). Mostly it was time consuming.

After this project, everything else that I have done since has been quite easy actually (even the House Targaryen dragon from the Game of Thrones - coming soon!)